After more than 30 years of evaluating the best health systems in America, U.S. News & World Report hopes to better inform expecting families with its first-ever edition of the “Best Hospitals for Maternity” report.
Out of the 2,700 hospitals nationwide that offer maternity services, U.S. News said 237 made the list.
But while health experts appreciate the focus on maternity care, some say the report provides an incomplete picture.
The publication evaluated facilities based on five different factors: scheduled early deliveries, C-section rates in low-risk people, newborn complications, rate of exclusive breast milk feeding and option for vaginal births after cesarean.
The report included services such as the availability of private rooms or suites, childbirth classes or valet parking, although these amenities were not included in the overall performance score.
“All families deserve to be informed on how hospitals perform,” said Ben Harder, managing editor and chief of health analysis at U.S. News & World Report. “Our hope is that this initiative will push hospitals in general – and especially underperforming hospitals – to redouble their efforts to provide the same high quality care.”
The survey, however, was restricted to uncomplicated pregnancies and did not stratify the data by race or ethnicity, or household income.
“There are many more components to maternal health than what is being measured but we’re grateful when there’s any attention on maternal health,” said Dr. Brenna Hughes, vice chair of obstetrics and quality and division chief of maternal-fetal at Duke University, which was one of the high-performing hospitals in North Carolina.
The list is also far from comprehensive. U.S. News reached out to every hospital in the country with maternity services but only about 20% responded.
The publication is working to include more hospitals and data on maternal health for the next report, said Min Hee Seo, a health data scientist at U.S. News.
“Maternity health equity, increase feedback and provide more information to patients and expecting families – that’s something we’re going to put more effort in,” she said. “We’re going to focus on hospitals that are smaller or located in maternity deserts so those hospitals are not penalized by larger populations in the area.”
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The report notablydidn’t include information on maternal mortality and morbidity. The Joint Commission and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is expected to release data on this sometime next year, but experts expect that report also to be lacking because hospitals were not mandated to provide that information.
“Hospitals are in a lot of stress right now, to be honest and fair, and I know that has delayed a lot of quality initiatives,” said Dr. Elliott K. Main, medical director at the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative and clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University School of Medicine.
Ten states had no high-performing hospitals, despite having at least one facility that participated in the U.S. News survey: Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
“Transparency doesn’t come easily to many hospitals, particularly in certain parts of the country and those are the same parts of the country that have very poor outcomes,” Main said.
For the past five years, California has made obstetrics a priority by demanding transparency from hospitals, he said, and maternity care has improved. The U.S. News report is an important first step to provide such transparency on a national level.
“It’s a long time coming to do these kinds of reports for obstetrics,” Main said. “What we’ve learned in California is the more you show light on obstetric outcomes, the quicker they improve.”
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.
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